I was in my home office finishing off a phone call and, in the background, I heard a blood-boiling scream. Thankfully it was -20 deg C outside and the windows were closed. Otherwise, I am certain that our neighbour would have immediately called 911 to report a domestic.
Unfortunately, this has become a common occurrence in our household. No, not the 911 calls, but the extreme anger that our 4-year-old displays when he doesn’t get his way. The screaming is usually followed by the words “you’re making me angry!” or “you’re making me sad!”. Note where the blame lies.
Now, sure, he’s 4. And you can’t really reason too much with a 4-year-old. However, where could this anger be coming from? Let’s explore this more.
Our world has been filled more and more with “things” that bring us happiness. Things like iPads, Netflix, cell-phones, games, etc. - external things that give us a temporary jolt of entertainment which we have learned to equate to happiness. They are like candy. They give us an almost instantaneous high of happiness and it is followed by an immediate crash when it stops. In my case, this is especially exaggerated when these “things” are taken away or confiscated from a 4-year-old.
For a 4-year-old, losing these things feels like they had their happiness taken away, and it was taken away by me, the parent! The person they trust and depend on for their wellbeing. When you look at it through that lens, “you’re making me angry” starts to quickly make sense. Ultimately, both, the source and the control of happiness is outside of his realm of influence. What comes from this is a feeling of scarcity. Not having the ability to secure happiness puts him into constant fear of not having enough. Ultimately, losing the “thing” that created his happiness generates fear.
The solution? Generate happiness intrinsically. This is easier said than done!
I believe that true intrinsic happiness comes when we void ourselves of fear. Fear is the root of many, if not most, of our negative emotions. In the case of my 4-year-old, the fear of not having enough happiness drove up feelings of anger and sadness. To void ourselves of fear, we must first fill our hearts with love, gratitude, and acceptance. Until we can love our selves for who we are, until we are grateful for all that we have and have become, and until we can accept and be complete with where we are in life, we cannot generate true intrinsic happiness. By not filling our hearts with love, gratitude, and acceptance, we will continue to rely on external sources of happiness. Sadly, this doesn’t only apply to 4-year-olds.